Financial experts far and wide tout the benefits of saving money. Nonetheless, millions of Americans find themselves steeped in debt and living hand-to-mouth. And while building up savings isn’t complicated (it’s quite simple, actually – spend less than you make), it is not easy. It requires discipline and commitment, saying no to discretionary spending, and setting – and keeping – long-term savings goals.
Fortunately, though, a financially-savvy life does not have to be a miserable life. Rather, frugal living requires a series of small decisions to sacrifice, to live on less, and to be smart about how we choose to spend.
Here are five tips that you can immediately put into practice to save more money each month.
#1: Don’t Level Up
We all know someone who immediately went out to buy a brand new luxury car upon landing a raise or promotion. Maybe you’ve even been there yourself. I deserve this, you might think. I’ve worked hard for my money; now I should be allowed to spend it.
This logic is flawed on many levels. Arguably, no one is “entitled” to certain privileges or luxuries. However, more importantly, increasing expenses along with income forecloses the opportunity to save more money. If your salary jumps $500 each month, that is a golden opportunity to bank another $500 regularly – but if you increase your car payment by that same amount, you are simply enlarging your lifestyle, not building your nest egg, padding your retirement account, or otherwise planning for your financial future.
“Keeping up with the Joneses” is a dangerous mentality that has many six-figure earners living paycheck-to-paycheck. Fight the temptation to “level up” each time you find yourself earning more, delay gratification, and choose to save your extra money rather than spending it on nonessential items.
[ Read more about money management skills ]
#2: Employ the Five “Rs” to Reduce Waste
Waste not, want not. This phrase applies to your financial situation as well. When considering how to live a more frugal lifestyle, examine the five “Rs:”
Use these to your advantage as much as possible. For instance, what impulse purchases can you flat-out refuse? How can you reduce gratuitous spending on vacations, meals out, or other indulgences? What can you reuse in order to avoid buying something new? Can you recycle household items and repurpose them for a new use, like using a mason jar as a flower vase? Finally, can you simply repair a broken-down object instead of coughing up for a new one?
#3: Cut Down Your Consumption
Are your utility bills breaking the bank? Fortunately, by reducing your footprint, you can bank more cash each month, too. Some ways to cut down on your monthly utility bill include:
- Installing solar panels
- Insulating your home
- Switching to energy-efficient kitchen appliances
- Turning down the temperature on your hot water heater
- Keeping the AC high in the summer and the heat low in the winter: utilize space heaters and fans.
- Unplugging your appliances when not in use
#4: Pick up a Frugal Hobby
Let’s face it: It’s far too easy to click over to Amazon Prime when we’re bored. Instead of leaving margin in your schedule to mindlessly spend money, pick up a fun hobby like gardening, biking, running, blogging, reading, or baking. Not only may this uncover a new passion, but it will save you money by distracting you from financially harmful habits like hitting the bar a few times a week, shopping online, or going out to fancy dinners.
#5: Embrace the brown-bag lifestyle
A simple lunch out can cost you $20. Imagine doing this three times a week for an entire year: The total cost your small indulgences would exceed $3,000! When planning your meals, keep in mind that small expenditures really do add up. Commit to packing your work lunches every day, and write a viable meal plan and shopping list for your family dinners. Additionally, bring a refillable water bottle and healthy snacks with you when you step out to avoid the last-minute pass through the drive-through.
Commit to the Long Haul
Embracing a frugal lifestyle takes time, energy, and commitment. As such, do not be frustrated with yourself if adopting it takes longer than you would like. Start small by choosing one or two of our tips to implement in your daily life. Additionally, avoid the temptation to compare: What works for your friends or colleagues may not work for your lifestyle.
Frugal living is the result of small changes over time. So go easy on yourself, focus on the long game, and enjoy the small victories as they arise.